Five chemical engineering research stories from September 2016

To help you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community here is our monthly instalment with some of the latest stories.

September’s five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation are:

The Popeye effect – powered by spinach

spinachPopeye was right; we can be powered by spinach! Researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a bio-photo-electro-chemical (BPEC) cell that produces electricity and hydrogen from water using sunlight, using a simple membrane extract from spinach leaves. The article, publish in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrates the unique combination of a man-made BPEC cell and plant membranes, which absorb sunlight and convert it into a flow of electrons highly efficiently. The team hope that this paves the way for the development of new technologies for the creation of clean fuels from renewable sources. The raw material of the device is water, and its products are electric current, hydrogen and oxygen.

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Nanofibres can ease the pain of Parkinson’s disease (Day 331)

In the UK this week, it is Parkinson’s Awareness Week. The aim is to raise awareness of the disease by doing a good deed and tweeting about it using #upyourfriendly.

We can all get involved; just by being nice to the people we meet. You can make new friends and maybe someone’s life a little easier without even knowing it. Check out the campaign to learn more.

Pair of carbon nanotube fibres

Photo credit | Rice University
Pair of carbon nanotube fibres

With this strategy in mind, I thought I’d raise awareness of the work of some chemical engineers who are definitely ‘up-ing their friendly’ by working behind the scenes to help combat the symptoms of this debilitating disease.

Researchers at Rice University in Texas, US, have developed flexible carbon nanotube fibres, that may provide an effective way of communicating directly with the brain.

Parkinson’s disease affects one in every 500 people. That’s an estimated 127,000 people in the UK – or around 8.5 million globally.

It is a progressive neurological condition that affects nerve cells in the brain, causing them to die. This results in lower dopamine levels in the body with serious implications for mobility and emotional behaviour.

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